'NCIS: New Orleans' Season 6 Episode 4 highlights pressing issues of inhumane immigrant detention by ICE and private prisons
The episode ends on a bittersweet note. While the team helps a man by getting the ACLU to take his case up, something that would give him a standing chance at getting asylum, other detainees from the Duvall detention center were seen being shifted to private detention camps
Episode 4 of ‘NCIS: New Orleans’ titled ‘Overlooked’ saw Dwayne Pride (Scott Bakula), Hannah Khoury (Necar Zadegan) and Tammy Gregorio (Vanessa Ferlito) solve a case of human trafficking within a private detention center for immigrants. It began with a community celebrating a man's birthday.
Just as his daughter, Petty Officer Elena Martinez (a legal citizen of the U.S.), lights the candles, federal agents break up the celebration and detain several people. Martinez is taken to the detention center as well, and that is where she finds out that young women there are picked up from there and sent to undisclosed locations. With the help of the FBI, Pride and his team rescue the women who would have otherwise been sold off.
The story, however, ended on a bittersweet note. While the NCIS team helped Martinez's father by getting the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) to take his case up, something that would give him a standing chance at getting asylum, other detainees from the Duvall detention center were seen being shifted yet again to private detention camps.
The episode deals with two important and related concerns. The first being ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and how the U.S. government agency detains immigrants, and the second, private prisons. Various news organizations in recent times have highlighted cases of mistreatment and even torture in ICE detention centers.
In August, a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 55,000 detainees alleged “horrific conditions” and “torture”. The suit alleged the detention center failed to provide the most elementary care or essential support for detainees suffering from chronic conditions or living with disabilities.
Equally, if not more problematic, is the idea of private for-profit prisons. The episode is timely in that sense as last month, California lawmakers passed a bill banning private prisons from operating in the state. The Guardian reported that the move would also close down four large immigration detention facilities that can hold up to 4,500 people at a time.
As Quartz reported, however, with local governments cutting ties with ICE and refusing to detain immigrants in prison, the private sector seems to be booming and that too almost without competition.
According to a Mother Jones report from August, despite the Congress’s direction to ICE to reduce its detention population, ICE ignored the request. The report added that the agency has, in fact, been rapidly contracting with new private prisons to house the increased number of detainees.
The ‘NCIS: New Orleans’ episode is emblematic of a crisis facing the U.S., both on a human rights front as well as on an ethical front. Perhaps it will beg viewers to question these practices more.
'NCIS: New Orleans' airs on Tuesdays at 10 pm ET on CBS.